Jean Gérin-Lajoie (1928-2020): A Pioneeer of Quebec’s Labour Movement

Jean Gérin-Lajoie, one of the great pioneers of Quebec trade unionism and the first Quebec director of the United Steelworkers to be elected by members, passed away in July at age 92.

Gérin-Lajoie served as Steelworkers Quebec Director from 1965 to 1981 and Quebec Federation of Labour Vice-President from 1959 to 1981. His union activism began as a 19-year-old worker at Montreal Cottons in Valleyfield, Que. As well as ascending to the highest echelons of Quebec’s labour movement, he was a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford and earned a PhD in economics from McGill University.

“He greatly helped to build and bring structure to our union, the labour movement and the world of work as a whole. He has left us an immense legacy,” said USW Quebec Director Dominic Lemieux.

“The Steelworkers union is extremely privileged to have been able to count on a man of such great skill and humanity over so many years,” Lemieux said.

For more than two decades, Gérin-Lajoie was the labour movement’s lead representative on a high-profile council that advised the Quebec government on labour relations policy. He contributed to legislation introduced by five different governments, including Quebec’s first meaningful labour laws, the creation of its labour board, implementation of a minimum wage law, anti-discrimination legislation, occupational health and safety legislation and labour reforms which facilitated union certification and produced anti-scab legislation.

He published two books on Quebec Steelworkers history and in 1985 he was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec, one of only four trade unionists to receive the province’s highest honour.

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